Everyone seems to be putting their 0.00237 cents into the wishing well over Microsoft's recent decision to reverse the DRM policy on the Xbox One. However, there have been a few issues that nobody has touched. As such, I have decided to dig 0.00237 cents out of my pocket.
First, let me be clear about this point. I do not support the decision to reverse the DRM policy on the Xbox One. I wanted that point to be expressed first and unambiguously. I will say it again. I do not support the decision to reverse the DRM policy on the Xbox One.
Now that I have that out of the way, let me go into my rationale. This decision removes most of the cool features that enticed me to pre-order the console. No, I didn't cancel my pre-order. There is still five months before the release of the console, and there is still a plethora of information that we, as consumers, do not have. With that, it should be noted that much of the talk in this post is speculation and rhetoric. I do not have any insider information that you do not possess.
The persistent connection would have allowed the console to do many of the functions for which we have been begging. That demo where someone was playing Ryse, seamlessly accepted a multiplayer challenge in Killer Instinct, played the match (and a rematch,) and then jumped back into Ryse. That's gone, if you bought the game on disc. The new, DRM free system will require the disc in the system to play a game.
That bullet point where one Xbox Live account could have up to 10 slave accounts so families could play together, no matter where they were located. That's gone as well.
The promise of huge, expansive, dynamically changing worlds that was brought to us with the power of cloud computing. Well, "the people" didn't want there to be a forced, persistent connection. As such, developers can't rely on a connection and, as such, that feature is gone. This is akin to the removal of the hard drive on the Xbox 360.
The list continues, but the enthusiast press has enumerated the list far better than I wish. All of this is because the Xbox team saw the HUGE success of Steam and decided to borrow a few ideas. Yes, Steam. The service that everyone hated for the first six months (for the same reasons the Xbox One is getting flack.) There was an initial growing pain. However, it is now lauded as the way games distribution should be handled.
Unless you are Microsoft.
I do find it curious that many of the features were originally announced for the PS4 during its unveiling. However, much of that was left strangely absent for Sony's E3 press conference. Instead, we received a single, static slide that basically said the exact opposite of Microsoft's plans. It is not farfetched to believe that slide came into existence during the approximately seven hours between the two media briefings.
The thing that majorly annoys me over this whole kerfuffle is that the single thing that caused the call to arms is, really, not an issue. Microsoft never said they were going to block used sales. They said it was up to the publisher to make that decision. This would have allowed publishers to reclaim some of the costs of development in subsequent sales of the product. If you sell your game to GameStop for 7 USD, GameStop is going to sell it for 55 USD. That is 48 USD pure profit for them.
Some publishers asked GameStop for a small cut. Was this a huge, money grubbing scheme? Well, yes, but the idea was that they have to handle server infrastructure for dormant accounts, etc. Of course, GameStop flatly refused, and the Online Pass was born. Fortunately, this trend didn’t last, and most publishers have stopped the practice.
The ability to sell "licenses" has already begun to be challenged. Are you living in the EU? If so, companies must allow you to sell digital property. With this precedent in place, it's only a matter of time before other areas follow suit. If GameStop were smart, they should have immediately contacted every publisher out there to get the rights to become a clearing house for these licenses. Then, they keep their business model and could reduce their brick and mortar footprint.
The digital landscape is changing. We need to not block this process. As Seth MacFarlane best said "Some issues are so important that you should drag people kicking and screaming." I believe this was said on an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher about the issue of Gay Marriages. Much like the original source, this is an issue that we need to drag people to the correct, progressive position. Microsoft, as a company, actually has the resources to weather the transition period. They have a great pool of first and second party developers that can leverage this new framework to prove the validity. Over time, the third party developers will get excited to use these tools.
As an old C++ guy, I resisted C# for years. Now, I think it's one of the best languages I've ever used. I have a server room and a Co-Lo full of servers, so I originally didn't see the value in Azure. Now, I wish I could move every one of my projects into the cloud. I still LOVE getting physical packaging, which my music and games collection will proudly attest. However, I have started to see the value in pure digital, and have found ways to integrate this into the ways I consume those products.
I can, honestly, understand how some parts of the population would be very apprehensive about this new landscape. There were valid arguments about people with no internet access. There are ways to combat these problems. These methods do not require us to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
However, the number of people in the computer industry that I have seen cry foul is truly appalling. We are the forward looking people that help show how technology can improve people's lives. If we can't see the value of the brief pain involved with an exciting new ecosystem, than who will?